Joshua Ebert

Trail Runner | Misadventurist | Storyteller

Tag: ultramarathon

The sport of running is a bit challenging to start. I think the biggest challenge for people is that it takes awhile before you start to see improvement. Along with a large amount of time, it is also a painful process. As this study published by The Onion points out, running every day leads to years of soreness. Yet every day millions of people put on their running shoes and head out the door.

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When I meet people and they learn about my love of trail running they often say they would love to run like I do. For a majority of these people, there is nothing stopping them. Truthfully it is easier to come up with an excuse not to run than it is to tie your shoes. I am very familiar with this barrier and usually the first to suggest trading a rainy run for breakfast. Even when I am running it is easily for me to come up with excuses. Things like “I’ll walk the spots with lots of roots or rock.” I’m a trail runner so most of the trail is comprised of roots and rocks.

One of my tactics to force me to run is to tell people my plans. If I plan to do a long run on Friday I talk about it. It makes feel that I have to be accountable to those I told about it. Another great tool is using programs like Strava, as they have various challenges for you to complete each month. Staying motivated is key to success in running.

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The thing I notice is while people wish to complete a marathon or ultra, they typically hesitate to sign up for a race. They start building the distance up to be something bigger than it really is. Here is where it is important to take that leap. It is easy to snowball running a distance race into this monumental task. People look at the training program and cannot see how they will fit it into their busy lives.

Once you make running a part of your schedule it will begin to become more natural to you. After a few weeks, it will no longer feel alien for you to slip into your shoes and go for a run. It will become a part of your day. Then on the days where life does get in the way of your run, you will start to be bothered that you did not run.

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For me, running is something that enriches my life. It allows me to explore new places, meet new people, and see the world around me through a different lens. Whenever you meet another runner you instantly have a connection with them and start talking about shoes, seriously it is a lot of talk about shoes. Whenever I travel I like to go for runs, which allow me to see the area differently because my route is not dictated by my a destination. This allows me to see areas in ways different than most tourists.

So get out there and make it a habit. Go find a race at Ultra Signup or Running in the USA, and get started on that life of soreness.

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This post originally appeared on my running blog, “The Distance and the Pain“.

Last year Uwharrie defeated me. I had a terrible finish, so, of course, I wanted to go back and do it again. This time, I signed up for the series (three races hosted by Bull City Running) along with several of my friends. Uwharrie is the second race in the series.

The Race

The Uwharrie Mountain Run takes place on the Uwharrie National Trail, a 20-mile point-to-point hiking trail that runs north to south in the Uwharrie National Forest. The race has three distances you can choose from: an 8-miler, a 20-miler or a 40-miler. I was doing the 40-miler.

Pre-Race

One of my favorite parts of this trip is getting to go camping with my friends Ben and Terry. On Friday afternoon, we drove out to Uwharrie to find a place to camp. We found a nice spot at the West Morris Mountain Campground and set up as the last rays of sunlight died. Ben made burgers over the fire and we kicked back to recount stories while enjoying our beer. Then it was off to bed (later than I would have liked) because we had to be up at 4:30 am to tear down camp.

It was around 20-degrees outside when I awoke to my alarm. I quickly changed into my running gear, layered up and crawled out of the tent to make a quick breakfast of ramen noodles and instant coffee. As I poured water into my pot I watched it freeze into slush. I put it on my stove and started heating it. Once Ben and Terry were up, we started tearing down the camp and tossing it into the back of my truck. It was time to head to El Dorado Outpost to check in.

The First Half

The race starts on a steep climb that goes up to a ridgeline. By the first ¾ of a mile, your legs are already screaming. The nice part is you hit the top of the ridge just in time to see the beautiful sunrise. Then you follow along the ridgeline and start descending down again.

Terry and I were pacing up together until we hit the steep technical descents, then I would slow. I had foolishly decided to change my inserts before the race and had yet to get my shoes dialed back in. So where I previously would be dancing down the steep, technical descents while chortling with glee I was instead cautiously picking my way down the hills. This I did not like.

Another change I was trying to make was to avoid the siren song of the aid stations. They typically are staffed by the best people lauding you with praise and offering all sorts of foods. Unintentionally, they become like the mermaids of lore beckoning the weak willed to disaster. My challenge was to keep hustling through the aid stations as fast as possible.

I did a great job of that through the first half with my longest stop being to refill my water bladder. I also found myself in a competition to beat my friend Terry. Terry is a strong runner who drops me with ease on most training runs, but for some reason I somehow best him on race day. The friendly competitiveness between us became a theme on the trip out to Uwharrie and during the race.

Finally, after the first 20-miles, we made it to the turnaround, and that is where everything changed…

The Second Half

Terry bested me out of the turnaround. The entire first half while I lead he was never far behind me, haunting me like a ghost. Ben, who was acting as our crew, was trying to go between the two of us at the turnaround. A nice volunteer stepped forward to get me soup and HEED (sports drink) as I struggled to change my socks, shoes, and shirt then re-lube for the return trip.

Terry was gone and when I realized it, I think I yelled some profanity in front of children.

I took off catching glimpses of Terry’s Ultimate Direction race vest ahead but never closing the distance. During this time, I saw several runners I knew coming in. First was Scott, who was pacing himself through the 40-miler. Next were several runners from my running group, the Raleigh Trail Runners. I saw Pete, then Carla, Alana, Jeff and Kelly. We passed each other shouting quick greetings and encouragement.

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Then I started to fall apart…

At the turn around I switched to a more minimalist shoe, the Columbia Conspiracy Razors. I went from poorly dialed but well-padded shoes, to shoes that could feel the entire trail. This had its positives and negatives. On the positive side the smaller shoes improved my agility as exhaustion made my footwork sloppy, but on the negative side my feet hurt like hell.

I plodded along in a walk/run style until Scott finally caught up to me. The year before it was I who picked up Scott who was really struggling and ultimately dropped out of the race. This year Scott returned the favor and buoyed me through till the final 8-miles.

Coming into the 32-mile aid station, I was struck with the immediate need to make a BM. After I hustled across the highway, I was met not only by Ben, but also by all the 20-miler runners who had come to cheer us on. I felt awkward as they greeted me and encouraged me to keep running but I dropped my pack, grabbed some baby wipes and darted for the port-a-john.

With my business concluded and a cup of soup downed, Ben and the others sent me off to complete the final 8-miles of the race. Through this section, I internally recreated the scene from “The Empire Strikes Back” where Luke fights himself. The punk song by Hear the Sirens “Reason to Run” began playing in my head. I was alone, evaluating what I was doing and why. I will not say that I discovered the meaning of life or answered my own question, but at least I have a few ideas that I can attempt to flesh out in later blog posts.

I finally finished the race in 9 hours, 27 minutes and 26 seconds. I did beat my previous time, but not as well as I would have liked. Currently I have no plans to return to this race because it is time to move on and find the next challenge.

Closing

All I want to say is that I recommend this race. It is one of the toughest races I have run, it will test you physically and mentally, but for all your suffering you will be rewarded with a well-organized race and amazing volunteers. So get out there and run!

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